By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
London and Laurel County will need to be prepared to share the road this Friday and Saturday, April 12-13, as cyclists from 15 states are gearing up for the annual Redbud Ride. More than 700 cyclists have registered for the event, 100 more than last year.
Barbourville will present the Redbud Warm-Up on Friday, April 12, at noon, prior to the Redbud Ride on April 13. The Redbud Warm-Up coincides with Barbourville's Redbud Festival and will begin at scenic Union College.
The 2013 Redbud Ride takes place on the next day and starts at the London-Laurel County Farmers Market in downtown London. Cyclists can choose from four routes — 23, 38, 68, or 102 miles.
For those new to cycling, a straight and hilly 23-mile stretch may suffice, but for the daring, a 102-mile route of hill climbs and curves will be ready for the taking. All routes will indisputably provide a southeastern Kentucky landscape of gently rolling hills and blooming scenery.
Although, she's only been cycling for nine months, London resident Sharon Cloud-Cornelius, 50, hopes to tackle the Red Route with gusto. In 2011, Event Chairman Rodney Hendrickson asked her to photograph the cycling participants for promotion, and since then, she yearned to be more than just a spectator with a sideline view.
"I thought, 'I'm going to do that. That's a bucket list thing I'm going to check off,'" she said.
A year later, the Redbud Ride swiftly came and went and she still felt unsure about the notion of cycling. So, in late July, she purchased a famed Bianchi bicycle, sans the training wheels.
"I called my husband and told him I found a bike I wanted to ride. It totally freaked him out and he said, "Don't you think you want to ride it around the block a time or two before you make an investment?'…two days later, I rode eight miles for the first time," Cornelius said.
She was hooked, cycling up to 1,330 miles to date in preparation for the Redbud Ride. She completed her first century ride with the Cumberland Valley Cycling Club at the Hope Ride in Indiana, which not only tested her endurance level, but also her strength.
Extreme high winds began to take their toll on Cornelius at the 75th mile, she said.
"I thought, 'I've come too far to quit now. I've got to do this,'" she said to herself.
As she ended the grueling 100-mile ride, she discovered a true cyclist within herself.
"I love being outdoors, being active and it's something I've always had an interest in. I've always just been really intimidated to do it until I found a (cycling) group. It makes it so much safer and fun and challenging," she said about riding with a group.
The weather for the annual Redbud Ride over the past two years has been soggy to say the least, and Hendrickson said many veteran cyclists are prepared to ride in the rain.
"They're either nuts or the toughest people in the world. They've had absolutely no complaints. As of right now, the forecast is calling for great weather," he said.
The upcoming 5-day forecast calls for partly cloudy skies and a hopeful high of 62 degrees. The main thing to remember while cycling in the event is not the weather conditions, but you should remember that it's not a race, Hendrickson said.
Volunteers will be stationed along all Redbud Ride routes with refreshments, which include bananas, granola bars, water and Gatorade. McWhorter Christian Church will be also be serving Papa John's Pizza to cyclists.
As for the non-participants, Hendrickson is asking drivers to keep their eyes out for cyclists throughout the county for the safety of the riders.
All are welcome to visit the farmers market on Saturday, April 13 at 8 a.m. to cheer along cyclists, such as Cornelius, who are fearlessly facing the challenge of participating in the Redbud Ride for the first time.
For more information, visit www.redbudride.com.